Illustration: Carolina Robles
Being a woman and African-American in the mid-20th century could be a double limit for a person in the United States, but Mary W. Jackson was able to overcome adversity and become NASA’s first female engineer
Being a woman, a mother, and an African-American in the mid-1950s might seem like three strikes to someone who wanted to stand out in the world of engineering, but Mary W. Jackson knew she didn’t want to be out of the game . And although not all were triumphs in her career, she is now recognized as one of the great pioneers of the aerospace career .
May was born in Virginia, United States, on April 9, 1921 , at a time when racial segregation was a reality in her country. African-American men and women could not access the same services and places as white people, even though slavery had ended more than half a century ago.
As a child, she showed great interest in numbers, so she entered Hampton University (an all- African-American college) where she majored in math and physics, and soon began working as a teacher, as well as getting other jobs as an accountant and Secretary. He got married and had two children, and until then nothing seemed to indicate that his life was going to turn out as expected.
Make accounts to go to space
In those years of the late forties there was no current NASA, but its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. During World War II the city of Hampton had become an important center of technological development.
In 1951 Jackson began working in the computer section of the Westside (a segregated area for African-Americans) at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory , one of the NACA’s major research centers, where he reported to another African-American pioneer, Dorothy Vaughn .
the wind tunnel
In engineering, a wind tunnel, or wind tunnel , is a basic tool that allows the development of new aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, or automobiles. With it , the conditions that the object will experience when in use in real conditions, when subjected to strong air or gas pressures around it, are simulated .
It was in 1953 when the engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki asked him to work together on their investigations in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel , a 1.2 by 1.2 meter, 45,000 kilowatt wind tunnel, used to study the forces on a model when generating winds of nearly twice the speed of sound.
Czarnecki soon recognized Mary Jackson’s abilities and encouraged her to continue studying math and physics, something she found almost impossible in segregated Virginia. But Mary was undeterred and managed to gain admission to the all-white Hampton High School of the University of Virginia.
In 1958, she obtained the necessary degree and became NASA’s first African-American woman engineer. That same year he published his first report, based on results from his supersonic wind tunnel experiments.
the glass ceiling
Although Jackson made considerable contributions from his position within NASA, he soon realized that promotion for women engineers, even white, were very few. many people call him “the glass ceiling” to that reality of women who are excluded from leadership or management positions.
In 1979, she decided to accept a junior position at NASA to direct the Office of Equal Opportunity’s Federal Langsley Program for Women, where she worked to promote the recruitment and advancement of a new generation of female mathematicians and engineers.
Jackson retired in 1985, but his name will always be remembered as an example that it is possible to fight against adversity and achieve goals. And his story will never be forgotten: in 2016 the film was released hidden talents, where it is told how his calculations, together with Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, helped the first astronaut to make a complete orbit above the earth in 1962.